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1981 Men's NCAA Basketball Tournament

75 Years of March Madness (NCAA)

1981 NCAA Tournament | Bracket

Champion: Indiana

Most Outstanding Player: Isiah Thomas, Indiana

Final Four: LSU, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia

Shining Moments

  • Indiana was only 21-9 heading into the NCAA tournament, but the Hoosiers rolled through its competition in March. They won their five games by an average of almost 23 points per game – including a 13-point win over North Carolina in the title game.
  • The championship game was nearly postponed, after the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan on that Monday morning.
  • BYU’s Danny Ainge went coast-to-coast through the Notre Dame defense for a game-winning layup at the buzzer. It’s now known as the “March through Atlanta.”
  • Defending champion Louisville was bounced in the second round by Arkansas, when U.S. Reed hit a 50-footer at the buzzer to give the Razorbacks a 74-73 win. Kansas State’s Rolando Blackman and Saint Joseph’s forward John Smith both hit game-winners immediately after Reed’s shot.
- Jeff Borzello

Championship Game

Location: Philadelphia

Indiana (63)
PLAYER Min. FG-A FT-A Reb. A PF Pts.
Ted Kitchel 4 0-1 0-0 0 0 3 0
Landon Turner 34 5-8 2-2 6 1 5 12
Ray Tolbert 40 1-4 3-6 11 0 0 5
Isiah Thomas 40 8-17 7-8 2 5 4 23
Randy Wittman 40 7-13 2-2 4 0 2 16
Steve Risley 13 1-1 3-4 4 0 1 5
Jim Thomas 29 1-4 0-0 4 8 2 2
Totals 200 23-48 17-22 33 14 17 63
 
North Carolina (50)
PLAYER Min. FG-A FT-A Reb. A PF Pts.
Al Wood 38 6-13 6-9 6 2 4 18
James Worthy 31 3-11 1-2 6 2 5 7
Sam Perkins 39 5-8 1-2 8 1 3 11
Mike Pepper 23 2-5 2-2 1 0 1 6
Jimmy Black 36 3-4 0-0 2 6 5 6
Pete Budko 1 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 0
Matt Doherty 24 1-2 0-1 4 0 4 2
Jim Braddock 4 0-2 0-0 0 1 1 0
Chris Brust 3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0
Eric Kenny 1 0-1 0-0 1 0 0 0
Totals 200 20-47 10-16 29 12 23 50

National semifinals

Indiana 67, Lousiana State 49
INDIANA (67): Kitchel 3-8 4-4 10, Turner 7-19 6-7 20, Tolbert 3-7 1-2 7, I. Thomas 6-8 2-3 14, Wittman 3-10 2-2 8, Risley 0-2 1-2 1, J. Thomas 0-4 2-2 2, Bouchie 0-1 0-0 0, Grunwald 1-2 1-2 3, Brown 0-1 0-1 0, Isenbarger 0-1 0-0 0, Franz 0-0 2-2 2, LaFave 0-0 0-0 0. Team 23-63 (.365) 21-27 (.778) 67.

LOUISIANA STATE (49): Mitchell 3-10 3-4 9, Macklin 2-12 0-0 4, Cook 3-5 0-0 6, Martin 2-8 3-3 7, Carter 5-10 0-0 10, Sims 2-8 1-2 5, Jones 0-2 0-1 0, Tudor 1-3 4-4 6, Bergeron 0-0 0-0 0, Costello 0-0 0-0 0, Black 1-1 0-0 2. Team 19-59 (.322) 11-14 (.786) 49.

Halftime: Louisiana State 30-27.

North Carolina 78, Virginia 65
NORTH CAROLINA (78): Wood 14-19 11-13 39, Worthy 2-8 4-7 8, Perkins 4-7 3-5 11, Pepper 0-4 0-0 0, Black 4-6 2-3 10, Doherty 0-1 8-9 8, Braddock 0-1 0-0 0, Kenny 1-1 0-0 2. Team 25-47 (.532) 28-37 (.757) 78.

VIRGINIA (65): Lamp 7-18 4-4 18, Gates 1-1 0-0 2, Sampson 3-10 5-7 11, Wilson 4-7 0-0 8, Jones 5-13 1-1 11, Stokes 0-2 0-0 0, Raker 5-9 3-3 13, Lattimore 1-1 0-0 2. Team 26-61 (.426) 13-15 (.867) 65.

Halftime: Tied 27-27.

All-Tournament Team

Player Pos. Yr. School Statistics
Jeff Lamp G Sr. Virginia (43 pts, 15 rebs)
Isiah Thomas G Soph. Indiana* (37 pts, 9 assists)
Jim Thomas G Soph. Indiana (4 pts, 13 rebs, 10 assists)
Landon Turner F-C Jr. Indiana (32 pts, 14 rebs)
Al Wood F Sr. North Carolina (57 pts, 16 rebs)
*Named Most Outstanding Player.
  • Scoring Leader: Al Wood, North Carolina (109 points, 21.8 ppg).
  • Highest Scoring Average: Mike Olliver, Lamar (54 points, 27 ppg).
  • Rebounding Leader: Cliff Levingston, Wichita State (53 rebounds, 13.25 rpg).
  • 1981 Tournament Scores

    FIRST ROUND
    Midwest
    No. 8 Lamar 71, No. 9 Missouri 67
    No. 5 Arkansas 73, No. 12 Mercer 67
    No. 6 Wichita State 95, No. 11 Southern (La.) 70
    No. 7 Kansas 69, No. 10 Mississippi 66

    Mideast
    No. 9 St. Joseph's 59, No. 8 Creighton 57
    No. 5 Boston College 93, No. 12 Ball State 90
    No. 6 Maryland 81, No. 11 Tennessee-Chattanooga 69
    No. 7 UAB 93, No. 10 Western Kentucky 68

    West
    No. 8 Kansas State 64, No. 9 San Francisco 60
    No. 5 Wyoming 78, No. 12 Howard University (D.C.) 43
    No. 11 Northeastern 55, No. 6 Fresno State 53
    No. 10 Pittsburgh 70, No. 7 Idaho 69 (OT)

    East
    No. 9 Villanova 90, No. 8 Houston 72
    No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth 85, No. 12 Long Island 69
    No. 6 Brigham Young 60, No. 11 Princeton 51
    No. 10 James Madison 61, No. 7 Georgetown 55


    SECOND ROUND
    Midwest
    No. 1 Louisiana State 100, No. 8 Lamar 78
    No. 5 Arkansas 74, No. 4 Louisville 73
    No. 6 Wichita State 60, No. 3 Iowa 56
    No. 7 Kansas 88, No. 2 Arizona State 71

    Mideast
    No. 9 St. Joseph's 49, No. 1 DePaul 48
    No. 5 Boston College 67, No. 4 Wake Forest 64
    No. 3 Indiana 99, No. 6 Maryland 64
    No. 7 UAB 69, No. 2 Kentucky 62

    West
    No. 8 Kansas State 50, No. 1 Oregon State 48
    No. 4 Illinois 67, No. 5 Wyoming 65
    No. 3 Utah 94, No. 11 Northeastern 69
    No. 2 North Carolina 74, No. 10 Pittsburgh 57

    East
    No. 1 Virginia 54, No. 9 Villanova 50
    No. 4 Tennessee 58, No. 5 Virginia Commonwealth 56 (OT)
    No. 6 Brigham Young 78, No. 3 UCLA 55
    No. 2 Notre Dame 54, No. 10 James Madison 45


    REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
    Midwest
    Louisiana State 72, Arkansas 56
    Wichita State 66, Kansas 65

    Mideast
    St. Joseph's 42, Boston College 41
    Indiana 87, UAB 72

    West
    Kansas State 57, Illinois 52
    North Carolina 61, Utah 56

    East
    Virginia 62, Tennessee 48
    Brigham Young 51, Notre Dame 50


    REGIONAL FINALS
    Midwest
    LSU 96, Wichita State 85

    Mideast
    Indiana 78, St. Joseph's 46

    West
    North Carolina 82, Kansas State 68

    East
    Virginia 74, Brigham Young 60


    NATIONAL SEMIFINALS
    Indiana 67, Louisiana State 49
    North Carolina 78, Virginia 65

    NATIONAL THIRD PLACE
    Virginia 78, Louisiana State 74

    NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
    Indiana 63, North Carolina 50